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Former Bulls big man Omer Asik’s improvement could be just the beginning

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 8:13 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Kevin McHale is a Hall of Fame big man who just so happens to coach Omer Asik and the Rockets.

So surely McHale had some sage words to share about halting Asik’s habit of dropping entry passes from his days with the Bulls.

“I just told him to catch the ball,” McHale deadpanned.

McHale said he had purposely avoided sharing too much one-on-one instruction with Asik, who has had enough transition with changing teams, cities and roles. In other words, Asik’s major jump this season from role player to double-double machine could be just the beginning.

“You don’t really know,” McHale said when asked if he foresaw Asik’s leap. “You liked what you saw in short minutes. Every coach really wants to win, so if the guy is playing short minutes, why is he playing short minutes? In Omer’s case, it was really just a matter they had a really solid front line.

“They have (Joakim) Noah, who is fantastic. (Taj) Gibson is really good. O filled in and did a great job. For us, he’s a mainstay. He’s our best post defender. He’s a big guy who can rebound in a crowd. He’s tough, rugged.”

As for Asik, he reiterated comments he made last month in Houston that a starting role played a major factor in signing his three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet. The Bulls offered Asik four years and $23.5 million, the most they could under collective bargaining rules, and then passed on matching.

“What happened happened,” Asik said. “It’s been good getting more minutes. But I hope to play better.”

Finishing kick: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t surprised James Harden has made his smooth transition from being the third option on Oklahoma City to lead dog with the Rockets.

“He was such a big fourth-quarter player for them,” he said. “That gave you an indication he could be a dominant player.”

Harden entered Tuesday night having averaged 30 points over his previous eight games.

Layups: Asked specifically if Richard Hamilton could return Saturday, which would mark four weeks since Hamilton tore the plantar fascia in his left foot, Thibodeau said: “We’re just going to day-to-day. When he’s ready to go, he’ll go. He’s doing a lot more.” ... The Bulls, at the Pacers on Wednesday, are 6-1 on the road against Eastern Conference teams.

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